Come Away, Step Across the Tide
Copyright 2021 by Avani Sudhakar
Photo by Ravit Sages on Unsplash
journey begins across the beach.
five oíclock, and the tide is still low. To your left, you have
the murky green waters of the sea, and to your left, you have the
brownish sands of the beach. Take off your shoes or sandals; roll up
your trouser legs. You begin your trek on wet sand that the tide has
shaped into lovely ridges. Be careful now; donít get blown back
by the wind! Some travellers can barely make a dent in the ridges,
but maybe you can do better. If you take a look at the sand, youíll
see itís littered with almost every kind of seashell known to
you get closer to the fort, the water level rises, and now the wind
is actually bringing sea water onto your skin. If youíre
wearing a skirt, itís best you gather them up in the hand
thatís not holding your shoes. If you look down, youíll
see a bit of white froth where your feet and splashing through the
water, and the brownish-green water itself. If you chose to leave
your skirt or trousers down, youíll have a fine time of it,
your step! With the water being so opaque, you canít see the
terrain of the ground. Itís high here, and low here, and ow!
You just stepped on a sharp seashell! Occasionally, the terrain rises
high enough that you get a shadowy glimpse of your feet again, before
sinking back into the depths.
comes the hard part. Be very glad you came before the tide returned.
Before you stretches a wide patch of broken down stone, with clusters
of rock oysters and really sharp pointy rocks. Put your shoes back
on, and tread carefully. Itís wet, so you donít want to
slip and fall. Also, the mud has a tendency to suck and hold onto
anything thatís not firmly connected to you, so tie those
sandals on tightly. You have a bit of climbing to do to get on level
with the fort, but nothing more than climbing three or four steps on
a staircaseÖ just one thatís not well cut out.
are a BAD idea, but youíre smart, youíll be fine!
safely? Walk forward a bit and you come to the gate. Indians pay Rs.
5, and foreigners pay Rs. 100, or $2. So check your melanin count and
cough up the required dough. Now, youíll take a walk along the
old fort wall. As you stroll past the ancient brown rocks, you might
not notice that the stones are ingrained with seashells. At first, it
seems like the rock is simply dark brown speckled with white, but as
you get closer, itís really seashells! After hundreds of years
of lashed by the sea and the high tides, the seashells became a
permanent part of the fort. Who knows? Maybe the rocks even had
seashells to begin with. They had to come from nearby, after all.
moving on, you come to a family taking pictures of their little boy.
The boy is actually sitting on 1600ís cannons. If you look
closely, the now pink-red-and-brown cannons and embossed with the
words ĎHardy and Dawson Ironworksí and, on the base,
ĎYorkshireí. Youíll have to remember that the
English had colonized India for several centuries before achieving
she won her freedom Ė and that legacy remains.
you turn onto the next wall, youíll get a view of the sea and
beach beyond the fort. Youíll see a few people wandering
through the rock pools, stopped over, and occasionally picking
something up. These people are looking for rock oysters, crabs,
shrimp, and anything they can find that could be used for the nightís
food. Their homes were to your left as you paid at the gate, and if
you look back now, you can see the metal sheets that serve as the
roofs and backs of their houses, and their clothes hanging on a
clothes wire. You might even catch a glimpse of a kid bathing, or a
girl washing clothes.
your attention is directed elsewhere. Just beyond the next battle
tower you hear a very interesting noise. Di-di-di-did-he-do-it?
your step, the ledge next to the curved tower is only a few inches
wide, but the drop down is several times your size. Made it safely
ahead of you is the source of the interesting noise: a red-wattled
lapwing. It is smaller than a pigeon, with gray, white, and black
plumage similar in pattern to a bluejayís. Itís legs,
however, are something else entirely. They are about twice as long as
a normal birdís legs, thin, and pale yellow. As it flies off
with the wind, you stop, and take a deep breath.
around you is a blanket of green, interrupted only by the tallest
rocks, and the edges of the brown walls.
seventy-five meters ahead, you see a small hill-like formation, only
to discover itís just an upraised pedestal. You climb up the
stairs and take a seat. The wind from the sea whistles past you and
dries off your clothes.
can see the entire fort before you.
the very center is a white-and-pink domed structure surrounded by
trees Ė a still-functioning temple. The trees surrounding it
are worn and gnarled by the wind. One in particular looks like it has
a giant hole in the middle of it, but it is only an effect of the
wind. Though you donít know it yet, that tree is a pagoda tree.
Beside it is a cluster fig, and further beyond it, beyond your sight,
is a drumstick tree. Murungakai,
South Indians call it, a delicious staple of lentil stews.
your gaze away now, and you may just see the giant water reservoir
adjacent to the temple. This was once the fortís main source of
water everywhere, nor any a drop to drink.)
no oneís using the water, and it has mixed with the sea and
rainwater and fallen prey to eutrophication. You know what
eutrophication is, donít you? Remember that slimy green sludge
you learned about back in seventh grade? Of course you do. You know
eutrophication is when algae grows too quickly and uses up all the
oxygen in the water. This makes the water uninhabitable, and the
excess amount of algae makes it unfit to drink, as well - a natural
process, which, like any natural process, can be devastating if
your other side, almost exactly opposite the temple, you see a
slightly rectangular shape framed by a wall. This is where all the
old ships used to dock. There is a small building on top off the
wall, but that is relatively new. Itís probably just a lookout
you get up off your bum and begin walking again. You walk down the
step and you come to a somewhat well-crafted staircase again. You
climb up the five steps and are face with a choice. A few meters in
front of you is a ledge leading to a lower path, or you can stay on
your current path. Take a hop three feet off the ledge Ė donít
hurt yourself! Ė so you can traipse through a patch of weeds
until your destination: a giant stone archway with straight sides and
a domed top that comes to a point. As you get close to it, you can
see it engraved with elephants, a trademark of India. As you go
through it, you see on either side that there are deep insets in to
brown, seashell-speckled rock, where the sentries would stand with
their guns poised. You go out of the entrance and balance carefully
on the rocks beyond.
out, thatís a long and painful drop!
you look back, which you will definitely do, seeing as you have
nowhere else to go, you will see and engraving of crocodiles and
lotuses at the very top of the archway. The crocodiles represent the
Navy, and the lotus is Indiaís national flower. Just beneath
that, youíll see an engraving of the elephant god, Ganesha, who
signifies good beginnings. To the right side of the archway, youíll
see an engraving of the monkey god Hanuman, and to the right, what
could be a local deity hugging a fish.
much history and symbolism packed into a few square feet of stone!
scramble back over the rocks and back to the wall. You make your way
through the throng of tourists who have miraculously appeared and you
wind your way towards the temple. You pass the water reservoir, the
drumstick tree, and the houses. It should be anywhere from an hour to
an hour-and-a-half since you first entered, and the tide is returning
quickly. The field of rock oysters and sharp pointy rocks you crossed
is now almost completely submerged. As tempting as it is to hop onto
one of the horse-drawn carriages, thatís not where the journey
you struggle painfully through the rocks, clinging onto to whoever or
whatever happens to be nearby, keep in mind that the end is near,
soon you can walk on the lovely, yet completely invisible sandy
beach. Once youíre past that, itís really just a matter
of putting on your shoes and walking back to the hotel.
that a lovely outing? What do you mean you donít have a hotel
I am a former biochemist and current part-time policy advisor looking
to spread my wings and try out some different kind of writing. I love
to travel, immerse myself in fantasy, and eagerly await the day the
world gets concrete proof dragons exist.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher